Three men in a boat, a picnic hamper and a dark tale involving suitcases….

Going to the theatre is a bit like catching buses. You don’t go for ages and then multiple opportunities to climb on board come along in quick succession.

Well, I know it’s not everyone’s analogy. But that’s how it is for me.

One trip to the theatre is special. Two in the same week is downright indulgent. A rare cornucopia of theatrical delights after an ceaselessly LONG dramatic pause. And, please believe me, Victorian comedy with exaggerated acting and modernised jokes on Tuesday followed by the early 18th century’s  Beggar’s Opera twisted, reformed and spat screaming into the 21st Century on Friday, left me feeling a bit dazed like a rabbit caught in the spotlight.

As stories go, the first was light and comic, it involved three chaps buffooning wonderfully and a female pianist who we always thought was on the point of breaking into words, but never did. Her expressions did her talking.photo 1 photo 3

The Hall for Cornwall offered me two tickets to see Three Men in a Boat , a complimentary pre-theatre ‘hamper’ worth £15, of local cheeses, olives, fresh bread and a selection salamis, I would guess by the quality were from of Deli Farm Charcuterie, to enjoy before the show and washed down with generous glasses of wine.  It was a totally unexpected invitation, and as with things unexpected, I had  absolutely no idea what to expect. It seems most others are equally clueless, as every time I mentioned “I went to see three men in a boat…” the quick reply would come back with a questions: “What?  Dara Ó Briain, Rory McGrath and Griff Rhys Jones  in person?” It  goes to prove the  TV series has overshadowed the original Jerome K Jerome’s classic tale of boating misadventure on which this production was based.

As the first people to sample the Hall for Cornwall’s hamper,  this ‘new’ initiative, we felt a little self-conscious, but once we’d taken our seats at the front of the theatre, felt bereft of ‘picnic’ hamper that by that time we’d demolished and left in the bar. The scene set and a hilarious tale from the river told,  it was just the thing that should really have been taken with us and eaten on this imaginary river bank…..

Produced by The Original Theatre Company and The Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds the performance drew on the quintessential example of the charm and wit of Victorian England. Attempting to escape the stresses of city life, three friends, Harris, George and J – accompanied by their faithful canine companion – decide to take to the river in order to relax and rejuvenate.

The holiday, however, quickly unravels and descends into chaos… and my friend and I, on the other hand, soon found ourselves sitting amid people roaring with laughter. We looked at each other, and laughed like the last people to catch on with the joke.

 

The later end of the week, “Dead Dog in a suitcase (and other love songs)” A new Beggar’s Opera, from the ever inventive Kneehigh Theatre, was laced with dark humour and a grim tale of bribery, corruption, immorality and greed brought right up to date.

It was meant as a family outing for a birthday treat. It was only at the end I read not suitable for under 14’s. Well, my youngest, may have a been a little traumatized by the bawdy brothel scenes, but he is only a few months off his 14th and he’ll get over it.

I’ve grown up with the Kneehigh, I’ve been on an adolescent journey with them since I was sixteen, and frankly, there’s nothing quite like a Kneehigh performance for sheer inventiveness, puppetry, pyrotechnics and performance.

Mayor Goodman has been assassinated. Contract killer Macheath has just married Pretty Polly Peachum and Mr and Mrs Peachum aren’t happy. Not one bit.

Based on the Beggar’s Opera, John Gay’s classic musical satire, Dead Dog in a Suitcase (and other love songs) is busting with wit, wonder and weirdness. An extraordinary Kneehigh cast of actor musicians shoot, hoot and shimmy their way through this twisted morality tale of our times…by turns SHOCKING, HILARIOUS, HEARTFELT and ABSURD!

The gorgeous and powerful live score combines trip hop and folk, Renaissance polyphony and psychedelia, and ska, grime and dubstep. … echoing Gay’s original by plundering the sounds of our times.

What the HELL is the world coming to?

This is now, this is it

The world is poor and man’s a shit

The game is rigged, nothing’s truer

Death’s a joke and life a sewer!

As drama it couldn’t  have been more much more different – barring the energy of both performances, that both were brilliant and a somewhat ‘stiff’ dog in each play – I didn’t know whether to end my week laughing, howling or just to end it.

<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/100090170″>STORY</a&gt; from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/wearekneehigh”>WeAreKneehigh</a&gt; on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>